Summer Camp Worship Planning

My buddy Grant Hurst, popped me a question on twitter asking what I was doing to prep for worship leading at a youth summer camp that I’ve got coming up.

Got my wheels spinning a bit, since every year inevitably as part of my prep, I always at least once try to google something along the lines of “Summer camp worship”. The results are never what I’m looking for – so I’ll start keeping record here of my experience at least.

The Logisitics

On a very practical, logistical level, I start with getting the schedule from the church I’m leading with. The camp that I have upcoming is one that I was on staff at one time, so I have some working knowledge of their camp structure from leading them a quite a few times now, as well as their church culture and staff.

This particular group picks a theme each year for the week and creates/purchases/develops programming around that theme. Typical schedule pans out to morning and evening sessions, with a few worship sets in each session. I also speak in the evening sessions.

The last few years, I’ve used a free account from Planning Center Online. This is the scheduling/programming system that many churches – including my home church – use. It’s a familiar setup and allows me to really lay out the sessions.

The Music

I always start in iTunes. Throughout the year, I keep a running playlist of songs that I think would fit well for summer camps. As I draw closer and start planning, I start going through my iTunes and selecting tunes that I’d like to add to the playlist that aren’t there already. I also go through and add favorites that the group is familiar with, etc. The classics, if you will.

This year we’re also incorporating requests on the camp’s facebook page. This allows the students to make requests before camp. (This is a heck of alot easier on me, and gives them a chance to be thinking about it)

Another option that we’re including this year is that one of the evening sessions will be a much longer, musical set that is total requests. Looking forward to this.

The Skeleton

So, it’s time to put these together. I start by creating a plan in PCO for each worship session, and put in the items that I know, for example, talks, games, etc.

Then I start fleshing out songs from the playlists that fit for the day’s subject, and the mood/teaching that we’re trying to communicate through the worship. Earlier in the week, I try and teach the newer songs and put them in heavier rotation, so that after a few sessions they’re learned. Morning sessions I will usually do much higher energy, jumpin’ tunes. For the evening, it tends to run a little more reflective.


I print these plans out and take them with me. Inevitably, things will change when I get down there. We have a staff gathering before lunch each day, as well as a programming meeting with my wife (who does logistics for this particular camp week) and the camp director. Things change, songs get added and moved, but it gives me a great starting point, and most of the plan sticks. Pretty helpful.

That’s about the gist of it.

What’s your favorite song from summer camp?


One thought on “Summer Camp Worship Planning

  1. Thanks for sharing, and yes, I would love to speak more directly to this sometime soon. I think the song that sticks out most in my mind is “Nothing but the Blood” from an FCA camp in Santa Barbara a few (6?!) years ago. But really, so many… Thanks for sharing.


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